The Safety Audit initiative was established in response to recommendations from the 1999 Task Force on Community Safety report titled, Toronto. My City. A Safe City. The mandate of the initiative was to increase community-led safety audits, increase awareness of safety audits, provide consistent and timely responses to recommendations arising from safety audits and establish a co-ordinated approach to safety audits.

What Is a Safety Audit?

Safety audits are a tool that people can use to evaluate different features in their neighbourhood with the goal of reducing crime and improving everyone’s personal safety. A safety audit helps people look at a space that feels unsafe and determine why it feels that way: to look at where the site is, what is beside it, how it is designed and what happens there.

A safety audit is an inventory or checklist of the features in an area (or building, park, alley, car park, street) which you feel affect your safety. It allows you to take action to correct these features. Whether there is sufficient lighting, whether you would be heard if you called for help, whether there are people who can help, or improvements you’d like to see to enhance safety, are questions whose answers help determine the appropriate action to take.

The goal of a safety audit is to identify and, if possible, to improve an environment to make it safer and less threatening for its users. The result will be reduced opportunities for anti-social behavior, violence and crime in the area in which you live. A safety audit is a simple but powerful tool. The strength of a safety audit lies in each person’s direct experience, as the expert on his or her own neighbourhood. By sharing what you know and what you feel, and by working together with members of your community, you can make change happen.

Benefits to your community may include:

  • getting to know your neighbours better
  • reduced feelings of fear
  • physical changes that make a place feel safer
  • increased participation in community programs (after dark)
  • reduced incidence of crime, and
  • increased community pride

Safety audits are designed to inspire you to get involved, and to challenge you to work for change in parts of your neighbourhood where you or your neighbours feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

Safety audits are just one way to improve community safety. You may wish to contact your local police department or community safety organization to discuss various methods for improving safety in your neighbourhood.

By working together, we can help make Toronto a safer city for us all.

Who Can Do an Audit

Anyone can take part in safety audits. They are designed to empower residents who feel vulnerable. When organising the audit you should consider everyone who would be interested in participating or helping in your effort. Ideally, a group of concerned residents would come together to share the tasks, as well as their safety related concerns.

While it is not necessary to include all of the following groups, they may be able to contribute to the success of the safety audit.

Your audit team could be made up of:

  • friends and neighbours
  • tenants’ association
  • community members/associations
  • property owners/property managers
  • local business owners or associations (B.I.A. representatives)
  • women’s support services/groups
  • social services
  • health services
  • church groups
  • representatives from local schools or school trustees (including students)
  • City Councillors
  • community planners/developers
  •  local community policing unit(s) or other Toronto Police Service staff
  • representatives from the local “Y” or recreation centre
  • other local groups such as Crime Prevention Association of Toronto (CPAT) or METRAC

The places you want to audit are those where you feel unsafe. You may wish to audit an area at night. If you choose to audit at night, each team should consist of several people to ensure everyone’s safety. The best size for an audit team is at least five people or more to cover a large geographic area.

The Audit Team

The success of an audit depends on learning about the concerns and fears of the most vulnerable users of a space. The audit group should reflect the needs and opinions of people in the whole community. It should, if possible, include isolated seniors, those with disabilities, and other vulnerable people. If this is not possible, try to be aware during the audit of the unique points-of-view of other people who might be:

  • using a wheelchair
  • hard of hearing
  • blind or visually-impaired
  • mentally challenged
  • very young
  • elderly
  • poor
  • shift workers
  • travelling with young children
  • carrying parcels
  • members of a minority culture or group
  • unable to read
  • not familiar with English

Remember, when scheduling time for a safety audit, to consider potential childcare needs. This consideration will make it possible for more people to participate.